Barcelona Travel, Spain

Casa Battlo, Barcelona, Spain

Casa Battlo roof, Barcelona travel.

Barcelona Travel, Things to Do

The city is home to some sensational architecture, led by the great and gaudy Gaudi, a lively, walkable centre, truly sensational restaurants and bars at reasonable prices, cultural activities by the ton and good beaches nearby.
Traffic and petty crime impede pure and relaxed pleasure in Spain’s funkiest city, but only slightly.

Amazing Gaudi and ‘modernista’ structures like the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo, Casa Mila (La Pedrera) and Parc Guell make Barcelona an architectural fantasy land.

Do pay to go inside Casa Batllo – which includes an English audio guide – that is totally fascinating and an astonishingly cohesive work of genius.

Then there’s the Sagrada Familia if only for the extensive and informative museum and close-up views of the molten monstrosity.

Parc Guell is free – more’s the pity since it’s usually over-crowded with school parties and tour groups.

There are other bizarre but functional monuments to Gaudi if time permits, such as the Hospital de Sant Pau.

The busy and entertaining La Rambla pedestrian boulevard is a must ramble. Also known as  Las Ramblas since it is actually a series of connected Rambla sections, with exceptional ‘living statues’ that actually have to audition before they’re allowed to freeze there. Las Ramblas are also popular with petty, but clever thieves. More.

Tourists should keep their eyes open for not only mug-pockets, but also the colourful La Boqueria market on one side of La Rambla (the exquisite chocolates and fruit on offer are irresistible). And another Gaudi sight just off the Rambla – Guell Palace in Carrer Nou de Rambla, as well as  a favourite tourist relaxing and dining spot, the imposing Placa Reial.

Running along the east side of Las Ramblas are the narrow but lively streets of La Ciutat Vella (the Old Town) and the Barri Gòtic (medieval area) including the stunning gothic La Seu cathedral and the Plaça de Sant Jaume (with weekly Catalan folk dances).

If all that old town claustrophobia or paranoia gets too much then head for the spacious, newish (1992) Barceloneta area at the south end of La Rambla.  Here the port, marina and beaches collide, providing good swimming facilities, sandy frolicking, seaside promenade walking, biking or skating and great, clean-air drinking and dining establishments.

The final just-about must-see during Barcelona travel is Montjuïc hill for its great museums, city views, parks, gardens, ‘Spanish Village’, cable car ride and Magic Dancing Fountains.

Barcelona Weather

Due to its many urban attractions, mild winter climate and not over-hot summers, Barcelona travel is possible all year round.
September and October are the wettest months but that’s only rain in about one day in five.
Summer averages run from lows of 18C to average highs of 28C, and there are decent beaches within walking distance of the city centre!
Winter temperatures range from 5C to 14C .
All in all, anytime is OK but the very best time to visit would be the shoulder months of April-June for warmth, lowish rainfall and reduced tourist herds – aside from Easter holidays.

Short Trips

Sitges, 40km south, pretty seaside town and excellent beaches, favoured by gays. Nightmare parking so go by train.

Montsterrat, 40km NW, fine walks, weird rock outcrops, caves and important – tho’ not very pretty – monastery on top of the mountain of the same name. The monastery’s famous boys choir sings at around 1pm daily. Get there by cable car from Montserrat-Aeri station or cog-wheel railway from Monistrol de Montserrat station.

Figueres, 90 min. north, for the fantastic Teatre-Museu Dali building that is more surreal than many of its contents. Some think that the curly gold things on the walls are loaves of bread. Many others think it’s shit. Literally.
Dali+bread? Mmm. . . This is the guy who stepped off a plane on his first visit to the USA wearing a coat embroidered with thousands of real flies!

Tarragona, 90 min. south for Roman remains, medieval buildings, rocky views.

Girona, 80 min. north, pretty, mixed-up medieval river city with useful international airport.

Getting Around

Barcelona is a large, complex city so if you have just a couple of days it may be best to stick to the walkable central-south region from L’Eixample’s Casa Mila down to the beaches of Barceloneta. Possibly fit in a couple of side trips to Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell and Montjuïc using inexpensive taxis if necessary.

However, there is a useful Metro system for those with more time, though it’s not exactly intuitive, including platforms where if you chose the wrong direction you have to exit the turnstiles (and pay again) to reach the other side. Get a day pass.

Bicycles? The city has bike rental stations in many locations so this could be a good way to get around if you have a credit card and feel adventurous, or private cycle rentals and tours are available too. Bikes can be delivered to your hotel.

Buses? Cheap but complicated routing and pick-pocket territory, so only for very savvy turistas.

Accommodation

With over 20 different Barcelona barrios, each with their own charm and character, the best way to get the know them is to stay there and live as the locals do. Perhaps staying in a self-catering apartment and making the most of cooking your own meals with all the fresh ingredients on offer in markets like La Boqueria!
Note that core areas of city are ancient so some apartments are small and don’t have lifts, though they are in the minority.

Food

Superb Catalan and Spanish food is all over Barcelona. Try La Boqueria food market just off La Rambla, with its attendant restaurants every day except Sunday; Barceloneta (the port area) for seafood; Barri Gòtic and the Old Town for little traditional eateries (though take care late at night) and Passeig de Gracia for larger, posher restaurants.
Don’t forget that you can make a great meal just eating tapas snacks (especially good in Barri Gòtic). Spanish people eat dinner REALLY late. An 11pm start is not unusual in Barcelona.

Festivals

Feb/March pre-lent Carnival, (+ gay version in Sitges)

March-June, Guitar Festival

April, Contemporary Music Week

April/May, Ancient Music Festival

June, Dia de Sant Joan (dancing, music, fireworks)

end of June-August, Festival del Grec (theatre, music, dance)

August, Festa Major de Gràcia (street music and events)

Sept, 4 days, Festes de la Mercè, the city’s biggest party, (parades, street music, human pyramids)

October – December, International Jazz Festival.

For some precise dates or more information see: European Festivals or Arts Festivals.

Arts and Culture

Museums and Galleries: A huge selection including Museu Picasso (in beautiful medieval palace); Museu d’Art Contemporani; Centre de Cultura Contemporània (includes concerts & cinema); Museu d’Art de Catalunya; Fundació Joan Miró; Museu Marès and plenty more.

Classical Music and Opera: Palau de la Música Catalana (visually terrific too); Saló de Tinell (in Palau Reial, usually free); Sala Cultural Caja de Madrid. There are frequently little concerts in churches and during festivals.

Theatre: mostly in Spanish, tho’ Teatre Romea sometimes does English for foreigners.

Dance including Flamenco: Teatre Lliure; Las Sevillanas del Patio; Tarantos.

Live Rock and Jazz: lots on so check the weekly Guía dl Ocio or El Pais for listings.
This trendy city has a manic night club scene.

Take Care

 Barcelona is the bag-snatching capital of Europe, but unfortunately there’s not much the police can do about it, because under Spanish law, stealing something worth less than €400 is a falta (a minor offence), not a delito (a crime).

If the snatcher or pickpocket is caught, he may be fined a small amount but will be free to continue his activities indefinitely. Consequently thieves, who tend to work in gangs, do so without any real fear while the police are demoralised and know that the rateros will be in action again within hours.

Barcelona residents offer some hints on how to avoid robbery: Don’t carry handbags, don’t keep a wallet/purse in front/back pocket (use low, front, zipped pockets), don’t leave a bag or pack on the floor of a cafe/bar/restaurant. Use money belts for keys, cards and cash, but leave any surplus cards, money and passports in the hotel safe.

Keep photos of essential documents on your phone or photocopies if not, with further copies in The Cloud.

Some suggest putting everything in a wheelie bag until you get to your hotel. When wandering around, especially at night, consider carrying an old, fake wallet containing a few low-value notes and expired credit cards.

Do not fight back as some (less intelligent) thieves carry knives.

Do not respond if someone points out bird crap on your shoulder.

Try to avoid El Prat de Llobregat rail station which is a crime hotbed. If you must go there take ALL precautions possible.

La Rambla is popular not only with tourists but also pickpockets, bag-snatchers and tyre-slashers, if you’re unfortunate enough to drive there. Beware of ‘distraction events’ in particular. i. e. when some good/bad incident takes place that everyone looks at, except for the light-finger types who will be otherwise engaged in investigating your handbag, pocket or car seats.
The British Consulate says: ‘. . . be vigilant in Plaza Catalunya, La Rambla and surrounding streets of the Old City, Barri Gotic and be aware of the possibility of muggings in the Montjuic area. In the Rambla, Old Port (Port Vell) and Olympic Port areas thieves posing as police officers may ask to see wallets for identification purposes‘.

See Bugbog Safety page and check UK Foreign Office travel advice for Spain and especially Barcelona travel.